So it was another Friday and another Catalan birthday party. How my heart and stomach sinks when I see a fresh notice tied to the school fence, the dreaded 'P4' lettering that means it's one of the kids in Joseph's years' birthday and there is a party for us to attend. They are nearly always on Friday evenings. The same Friday evening's that I like to twitter with my first weekend's glass of wine in hand.
There are 3 venues in the village that are used for birthday parties. The first is a large corrugated tin shack at the far end of the village which, as far as I can make out, has no other function in life except to be a children's party venue. It is bare inside save for some tables and chairs but is big enough for lots of young children to run and jump around like demented fleas for 3 hours whilst the Mama's all sit around shivering. The place is absolutely freezing. You may well have been transported magically from the Mediterranean to the Baltics the minute you step foot in this place, such is the severity of the chill. Oddly enough this venue is only used in winter, the local Mama's shunning the other two smaller (warmer) venues in the colder months, for reasons that have yet to become clear to me.
The second venue of choice is a very, very small side room of a local bar. Whilst tastefully decorated it is not anywhere near big enough to host 30 odd kids, with Mama's, and an array of pushchairs and prams for younger family members. In it's defence though, it does do rather nice bocadillos and lovely freshly cooked home made churros to dip in hot chocolate. This is probably my favourite venue of the three, not only because the spread is of a higher quality, but because it is so cramped that it's pretty much guaranteed that the party is a relatively short one, as everyone starts to get exasperated by the antics of a bunch of 4 year olds high on sugar and tartrazine in such a confined space.
The third venue is another bar opposite the post office, it has a lean-to extension that opens up onto a large plaza, giving the kids plenty of room to run about outside whilst the Mama's all sit squashed together inside. This was the venue of choice for Friday night's dual party for Ferran and Ivan. The party started true to form with the giving of gifts, immediately followed by Joseph doing his best limpet impression, clinging onto me for dear life and developing an acute shyness that only ever happens at birthday parties. His usual trick of shunning the more healthy bocodillos for the evil that is Nutella sandwiches on overly sweet white sliced bread was played out along with the eating of ALL the communal crisps.
The skies over the village had taken on an ominous hue, the phrase 'a bit black o'er Bill's mother's' sprang to mind, or in Spanish 'un poco negro sobre la mama de Guillem' should such a direct translation ever be necessary. And oh how we laughed when our collective offspring squealed at the fat raindrops that fell out onto the plaza. And oh how short-lived that laughter was when the small lean-to housing 20 or so mamas suddenly became very small and very loud when all the kids ran in out of the rain.
Cue all 3 babies present suddenly crying and a tantrum of epic, oscar-worthy proportions from young Xavi, as if his poor Papa didn't have enough to contend with being the only man in a sea of women and small children. The noise was deafening and I needed a drink. Sadly for me, Catalan birthday parties are dry affairs and I somehow resisted the urge to go to the bar and down a cheeky gin, thinking that there are probably enough adjectives used about me in the village without adding 'alcoholic' to the mix.
Xavi's tantrum was taking a new and interesting twist, with the coven of all-knowing Mamas raising their eyebrows and shaking their heads at the inadequate handling of it by his Papa, when a huge flash of lightening darted through the skies, a nanosecond later the loudest crash of thunder sounded. The storm was upon us, indeed directly over us. The babies stopped crying, the children stopped shouting, even Xavi's tantrum stopped mid scream, his body still contorted in a manic squirm in his Father's arms. The only audible noise being the collective sharp intake of breath from the Mamas. Then more lightening and thunder, accompanied by a trickle of nervous laughter.
"tienes miedo?" (are you scared?) asks Sergi's mum who's sat next to me.
"I am little concerned" I replied, pointing up at the roof made from corrugated iron and gesticulating towards the walls made of polythene. Only the addition of a few strategically placed golf clubs would have made the building any more dangerous. The party bravely continued and the demise of the village's power supply was wisely put to use by the lighting of the candles on the birthday cakes. 'Happy Birthday' was sung and cake was eaten blindly in the dimness of the twilight. The storm passed over, heading out to sea. The power returned in time for the piñata and everybody was breathing a collective sigh of relief when the heavens opened.
Within ten minutes the streets had turned into rivers, with torrents of water cascading from rooftops and gushing from overflow pipes. Manhole covers pushed out, unable to cope with the deluge. All the Mama's had their mobile phones clamped to their ears, desperately trying to get hold of their husbands to come and collect them. Movistar, Orange, Vodaphone et al, all failing due to the sudden increase in phone traffic. My own attempts to raise t'husband were futile, I was worried that we'd have to sit the rain out which could have been hours. Thankfully a few heroic husbands were raised and they gamely drove all the guests home, sometimes piling 7 or 8 in one car at a time. In my 6 years of living here, I have never seen rain like it. Luckily it was a shortish storm otherwise really serious flood damage would have occurred had it continue to rain at that level for any longer.
We arrived home drenched to our skins from the short journey from party to car and car to apartment, our feet sopping as we waded through the water. T'husband, bless him, was busy at the stove rustling up a curry. A bottle of vino blanco had been chilled and de-corked ready for my delectation.
I am seriously starting to think that Friday night birthday parties and me really don't mix and we'd be much safer if we stayed home and I got to play on twitter instead.